Loathing the busyness

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Most of us are busy people. We spend our time rushing around going and doing or planning to go and do. We take great pride in having the ability to multi-task, like keeping a bunch of irons in the fire grants us bragging rights about our busyness.

With that, of course, comes stress and even that seems to be a way to measure success. The amount of stress we have proves we are on that one-way street to the American dream.

In fact, we are so busy, so in a hurry to get wherever it is we are trying to get to, we have to pick one day a year for a family meal. This past Monday was that day as we celebrated Family Dinner Day 2010.

People, what is wrong with this picture — we set aside a special day to eat together. Are we really that pushed?

Can’t we take a few minutes every day to sit at the same table and eat even if we consume something we picked up at a drive-thru window? Perhaps this is less of a deal in small towns, but I think even in rural America meals on the run are not a rarity.

When I heard stories about Family Dinner Day, it took me back to my childhood and the meals I shared with my parents, brothers, and sisters. Now I’m coming close to sounding like that older relative who is forever talking about how much better things were in the “good old days,” so bear with me here.

There was never a question of whether the family would sit down for supper, or breakfast for that matter. Often, our times around the table were about more than the food we shared. I remember suppertime stretching on as we lingered over empty plates talking or slipping into a quick game of family “I-Spy.”

There was a lot of laughter on those nights, a lot of feeling connected as a family unit.

I wonder how we got from there to a time when we pencil in a family meal like a business meeting. The justification for this is that kids and parents have so many activities that take them away at mealtime. We are just enhancing our lives and the lives of our kids to pieces and that requires being gone from home.

Maybe, but my siblings and I didn’t suffer from lack of social interaction. I was in Girl Scouts and GA’s and church choir. My brothers were also Boy Scouts and played sports, and we went to many of their games.

I had sisters who were cheerleaders, sang in the school choral group, and were involved in the drama department. We still regularly sat down together for meals because people who planned stuff set schedules that didn’t interfere with family time and that included church-related things. And, we simply said “no” to taking on too much.

Perhaps our need to designate a day for family dinner speaks to much more than breaking bread together. It says something about where our heads are in 2010, about the priorities in our lives.

We could just stop. There is nothing keeping us from stepping off the merry-go-round long enough to catch our collective breath — not one thing stopping us from sitting down at a table together on days that aren’t family dinner holidays.

Hey, that one simple act might lead to a shift. It might even awaken us to the realization that we don’t want to multi-task ourselves to the grave.

Oh, and another thing we did back in those “olden days,” the children washed, dried and put away the dishes after the family meal. Maybe we should designate a day for that, too.